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Meeting the Fundraising Challenge Head On

President Antonio Pérez, Robert De Niro, Special Guest Star Honoree, and Jane Rosenthal, Co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival at the 2014 BMCC Gala.
President Antonio Pérez, Robert De Niro, Special Guest Star Honoree, and Jane Rosenthal, Co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival at the 2014 BMCC Gala.
July 22, 2014

In recent years, as the economy has regained its footing, fundraising efforts by the nation’s college have paid off in a significant increase in philanthropic giving. Among the institutions responding to a survey by the Council for Aid to Education, (CAE) 59.5 percent raised more money in 2013 than in 2012.

What’s more, in New York State, colleges actually beat the national average, with donations to the 105 colleges included in the survey reporting a $370 million increase in donations over the previous year.

A rise in giving overall, but challenges remain

The New York State institutions in the CAE survey comprise a mix of four-year and community colleges, but it’s no secret that fundraising continues to prove more of a challenge for the latter. Nonetheless, community colleges are meeting the challenge head on. As a case in point, Doris Holz, vice-president for Development at BMCC, reports that BMCC raised more than $3 million during the 2013-2014 academic year—the most ever in the college’s 51-year history.

A major part of those dollars were raised as part of the BMCC Foundation’s 2014 Gala, Reaching for the Stars: The Next 50 Years at BMCC, which was spearheaded by the BMCC Foundation Board. All told, the Gala brought in over $1 million—more than one third of the year’s total and possibly the highest amount ever for a CUNY community college fundraising event.

“There are number of lessons we can derive from the extraordinary success of this year’s Gala,” says Holz. “Perhaps the most obvious is the growing recognition that community colleges are a powerful engine of workforce development and economic growth in New York State and across the nation.” Philanthropic organizations as well as individual donors are paying closer attention to community colleges these days and are more willing to donate.

That said, in the past, community colleges were often at a disadvantage in raising money from private donors. As the website insidephilanthropy notes, “unlike leading universities, most community colleges do not have wealthy alumni on whom they can rely for six- and seven-figure gifts.” But since 2006, “funders large and small have increased their attention to — and funding of — community colleges, focusing primarily on the following areas: access, affordability, and completion.”

Closing the funding gap

Today, community colleges are increasingly soliciting gifts from influential philanthropists, “many of which have helped fill a void where state and federal funds continue to disappoint,” notes Community College Journal, the magazine of the American Association of Community Colleges.

“In raising funds, community colleges have access to the same resources as senior colleges—foundations and grant-giving organizations, capital campaigns, private philanthropy, and donations from alumni,” says Holz. “But given the additional pressure they face—the pressure to do more with less—community colleges must show even more creativity and resourcefulness in their fundraising.” In the coming years, outreach to alumni will become increasingly important as will major gifts and planned giving.

“The BMCC Foundation hit a home run on May 19,” says Holz. “We couldn’t be more gratified.”


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  • Donations to colleges are up but community colleges still face financial pressures
  • Funds raised at this year's BMCC Foundation Gala set an unofficial CUNY record

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